Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar on Sunday indicated there was a strong possibility of a reduction in the 33% quota in the Women’s Reservation Bill. This was to ensure consensus among political parties protesting against the legislation in its present form.
Addressing party workers at Karla, Pune, at the end of the two-day NCP conclave, Pawar said, “Amendments in the present bill cannot be ruled out. To ensure consensus among all parties, there are chances of reducing the 33% quota.”
According to a senior Congress functionary based in Delhi, “the crucial issue which is worrying mainstream male members across the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, NCP, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, et al” is the quantum of quota for women. “Under the pretext of OBCs and minorities, those stalling the bill actually want to bring down the quota from 33% to 20%,” he said, even as he indicated that Congress president Sonia Gandhi was not keen on alterations.
But, if there is consensus among all parties, the reduction could well become a reality.
Pawar is playing a significant role in the core committee, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, weighing the merits of various amendments which will ensure the smooth passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha in the current session. The women’s bill, in its present form, was passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9.
Pawar also said that he “advised the three Yadavs (Mulayam, Lalu Prasad and Sharad) not to stall the bill in the Lok Sabha”. Interestingly, the biggest protest emerged from his own party when deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal demanded reservation for OBCs too.
Silencing the protests, Pawar said, “I would urge everybody seeking reservation for OBCs and minorities to let the women bill be passed. I understand the concerns but they can also be addressed step by step.”